Saturday, February 05, 2005

Lisa's question and more...

To answer a question recently posted, am I afraid for my son with my wife's behavior? Yes, but there’s virtually nothing I can do immediately. My attorney has asked me the same thing, and told me that we can try to force a psychiatric evaluation. I’ve thought about it, and I’m definitely considering it. There’s some questions I’d have to have answers to first – like will the marriage counselors records be examined? That would be very important because it would expose a lot of her strange behavior, and at least her violence towards me. How mentally ill would she have to be for it to help me? Would she be able to fake being normal?

One thing I can say is that my wife seems completely devoted to our son, but will that change in the future as she declines? Will she have an acute episode sometime? There’s so much I don’t know or understand about the disease. Families have an extremely hard time getting help for a loved one, in part because there’s no lab test or other concrete proof of the disease. Schizophrenia: A Handbook for Families explains some of the difficulties.

I quote from

Many people with schizophrenia are literally unable to see that there's anything abnormal about them (this is commonly called 'lack of insight' or 'poor insight'). It's almost a hallmark characteristic of the disorder, like memory loss is for Alzheimer's disease. There are several physical explanations for impaired awareness - the important thing to realize is that your relative is most likely not being purposely obstinate, difficult, or defensive when they deny their symptoms and refuse help.

I have to say that I’m a little angry at her family. Years ago they went through a lot to get my mother-in-law help, and they know my wife is having some of the same kinds of problems. One of them (my sister-in-law) actually approached me and asked me about her. I told her about some of the things going on, like her paranoia, her violence, her suicide threats and she seemed very concerned. Later on, when my wife found out we had talked she confronted my sister-in-law on the phone. My sister-in-law denied it all, at least according to my wife. Her husband, my wife’s brother, once asked my wife why she was so mean to me. I don’t know what the result of that conversation was, I only know it happened, and only that because my wife lost it on me and claimed that I was lying to her relatives and trying to make her look bad. So the family definitely knows something is wrong but they don’t want to confront it. Maybe they had their fill of this with my mother-in-law.

I’ve written so much that I don’t know if I mentioned that I almost left my wife once. It was at her grandparents thirtieth wedding anniversary. The whole event was held at a resort and during the hour long drive there my wife was utterly vicious. When we arrived we started to go inside and my wife disappeared. I was talking to my in-laws with my son in my arms and I looked at the entrance to see my wife lugging in our suitcase, which was very heavy. My in-laws turned and saw this and were not very happy. My wife injured her back while rollerblading a couple of years ago and her parents have been kind enough to drive her to and from doctors appointments where she was receiving injections into her back. What bothered them was that she was surely going to injure her back again doing this and they knew she was doing it for attention because she was upset. On the way to the room she became so vicious that I stopped walking and told her she needed to stop or I was going to go home. She turned to me and told me to just go. So I did. I turned around and walked out. I went straight to the car, buckled our son into his car seat and started to drive home. I left a message on her cell phone that he and I were going home. She called me several times as I drove home, telling me that I had to bring our son back because he “belonged there” at the celebration. I refused. In the last call she told me that if I didn’t bring him back she would call the police. I asked her what she would tell them and she said that she’d tell them that our son belonged at the anniversary party because she was the mother. I told her I was the father. The last call I received was from my sister-in-law on my wife’s phone. She told me that the rest of the family wanted me to come back because it would hurt the grandparents to not have our son and I there. I told her that I was sorry, but that I wouldn’t be treated that way by my wife. She told me she knew and that they would talk to her. I went back and my wife and I had a pretty good argument, but the tides turned when her family let her have it for the way she was acting. I don’t know exactly what was said because I had taken our son for a walk while they all talked, but it must have been pretty good. For (literally, I am not exaggerating) the first (and last) time my wife apologized to me for the way she was acting and we actually had a great weekend together. I thought that maybe her family might get more involved, but that was the last time that I know of they did anything.

After I was served and thrown out of the condo I thought her family might feel the need to do something to help her (and me). They knew I was not abusing her, in fact they knew she had been abusive and physically violent with me. They knew her behavior was abnormal, at best. I know they did get very angry at her and there were some big fights about what she had done. I only know that because my wife complained to a mutual friend about their lack of support and how they didn’t want to hear her stories about what had happened. She complained particularly about my sister-in-law, who snubbed her, telling her that she did not want to hear about it – just get a job and talk to me about it in six months. Did her family ever think about what all of this was doing to me? Probably, but they did nothing. They knew I had been thrown out with nothing, that she was trying to keep me from seeing my son. They knew what she had done was wrong, and that it could have sent me to prison. Did they ever consider the damage this might do to our son? Do they think that my wife will somehow experience a miracle cure and that everything will suddenly get better?

Just writing this is bringing some of the anger I’ve been ignoring for months to the surface. When I consider what could have happened versus what did happen I see how unbelievably lucky I am. I’m glad I’ve got the appointment on Monday to see the counselor. I’ve held things together amazingly well considering what has happened to me, but I need to address the whole situation. As I wrote about her family I thought about writing them all a letter as a group telling them how I felt about their inaction and how hiding their heads in the sand will do absolutely nothing. I want to tell them what I’ve gone through and how much I miss my son. I want to tell them that they have a responsibility, if not to me, then to our son to address my wife’s behavior and do something. Hiding their heads in the sand will do nothing. Maybe that’s something I’ll ask the counselor about on Monday.

Of course, I have to ask myself, if I am feeling so self-righteous about them addressing my wife’s behavior, then why am I hesitant to try to force a psychiatric evaluation of my wife?